Pope Calls Parish ‘Sentinel’ for Rome Diocese

At the first local church he has visited as Pope, the Holy Father presided over first Communion for 16 children.

Pope Francis meets with first Communicants May 26 at Sts. Elizabeth and Zechariah parish in Rome.
Pope Francis meets with first Communicants May 26 at Sts. Elizabeth and Zechariah parish in Rome. (photo: Vatican Radio/Facebook)

ROME — Sts. Elizabeth and Zechariah was the first church in the Diocese of Rome that Pope Francis visited, and enthusiasm was high, as presided over first Communion for 16 children.

The Pope was welcomed May 26 by thousands of parishioners and the pastor, Father Benoni Ambarus, who noted that the parish, located on the northern outskirts of Rome in Prima Porta, can be seen either as the last one in the Rome Diocese, or as the first, as a sentinel guards the door.

“Dear sentinels,” Pope Francis responded off-the-cuff, “I like what you said: ‘That periphery has a negative sense, but also a positive sense.’ Do you know why?”

“Because … we understand reality better not from the center, but from the outskirts,” he answered. 

The Holy Father arrived at the parish via helicopter at 8:30am and spent time greeting the faithful, the sick and those who were baptized in the past year. He also heard some confessions before celebrating Mass at 9:30am in the square in front of the parish.

Pope Francis based his homily on both the story of Mary going to visit her cousin Elizabeth and the fact that May 26 was the feast of the Holy Trinity.

“When Our Lady had just received the announcement that she would be the mother of Jesus, and also the news that her cousin Elizabeth was pregnant — the Gospel says — she left in haste; she did not wait. She did not say: ‘But now I'm pregnant; should I care for my health? My cousin will probably have friends who will help,”’ he noted.

“She is our Mother, who always comes in haste when we need help,” the Pope said, telling the children and the congregation that she also helps us “understand God well.”

The way that Mary is constantly ready to help us made Pope Francis remark, “It would be nice to add to the litanies of Our Lady one that says: ‘Our Lady, who sets out in haste, pray for us!’”


Back-and-Forth Dialogue

Then the Pope launched into a back-and-forth dialogue with the children who were about to receive their first Communion, teaching them about the Trinity and counseling them to ask Mary to help them understand God more deeply.

“The Father gave us life; Jesus gave us salvation. He accompanies us, guides us, supports us and teaches us. And the Holy Spirit? What does the Holy Spirit give us? He loves us! He gives us love,” he summarized.

“Let us think about God like this and ask Our Lady, Our Lady who is our Mother, who is always quick to help us, to teach us to understand how God is: how the Father is, how the Son is and how the Holy Spirit is.”

During the Mass, 16 children received their first Communion from Pope Francis, as well as 28 others who had recently received the sacrament on previous Sundays.

After Mass the first Communicants sang a song to the Pope, which was followed by a time for him to greet the parish staff before flying back to the Vatican to preside over the Angelus.